- By Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
- Published 08/8/2013
Fellow citizens, as enshrined in our republican constitution, freedom of religion is something we cherish and defend in our beloved nation. It is something that we must never take for granted as there are many other citizens of the world who do not enjoy this privilege.
As in other parts of the world, Eid ul-fitr in Trindad and Tobago is marked with great jubilation – great happiness that the fast has been completed and Inshallah (God willing) the fast would have been accepted.
Muslims celebrate not only the end of fasting, but also thank Allah for the help and strength that they believe He gave them throughout the month of Ramadan to help them practice self-control and open themselves to receiving graces and blessings. Indeed, in all its physical and spiritual dimensions, the obligations of Ramadan, when sincerely undertaken, bring about a renewal of body, mind, and soul; a blessed achievement that positively impacts not only the individual, but others as well.
I sincerely congratulate all those who were able to keep the fast and who observed extra acts of worship during the days and nights of the blessed month of Ramadan. May Allah accept all that was done for His sake during this holy month.
Dear brothers and sisters, Ramadan is meant to enhance and purify the bodies and the souls of all those who honoured the fast. This devotion has wiped out all past stains that had been on our hearts. We are now all cleansed and renewed by your sacrifice.
Today as you have decorated your outward personalities with beautiful garments; in accordance with the Qur’an know that your soul is now also decorated because you aspired to observe righteousness during the days and nights of Ramadan.
Through sacrifice, discipline, and devotion, the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr has become all the more meaningful as its message of unity, brotherhood, peace, and forgiveness becomes a lived reality.
These are the values and ideals to which we must all re-commit as we seek to shape an authentic future for ourselves and continue the task of nation building to benefit all citizens who share our dream of well-being and prosperity.
As we grow older we begin to realize that all material achievements and matters are just for a time, as they are separable, and are limited.Our Muslim brothers and sisters look to the Holy Qur’an for spiritual guidance. So too, all of us, may benefit from the wisdom of this holy text as we reflect on the words of Allah:
“What is with you must vanish: what is with Allah will and We will certainly bestow, on those who patiently persevere, their reward to the best of their actions.” (16:96)
We are all called to build a big account with our Lord by giving charity and helping the poor and downtrodden in our society. He calls such charitable acts as “goodly loans” which He will have to repay. We must therefore strive continuously to be our best selves.Innate in all of humanity is the incredible gift of freedom to choose between good and evil. The adherence to the tenets of Holy Ramadan has assisted us in making the correct choice. We must continually strive to always do what is right for ourselves, our neighbour, and our community on our onward journey to enhanced spirituality.
Now is the time to pause, reflect, and listen and take positive action for ourselves and our fellow citizens.
As citizens of a cosmopolitan twin-island republic, one of the most remarkable and enduring traits that we possess is the fact that we wholeheartedly participate in and celebrate each other’s national days and religious festivals. Through these celebrations we are ever more united as a people. Our on-going strength lies in our inimitable diversity.
This is something we must always be thankful for and cherish as it is that which sets us apart from many other countries in our troubled world today.
As we celebrate this great religious festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, may Allah guide and protect us all so that we will be pleased to meet Him on that day and He will be well pleased to entertain us.
As He waters his creation, may He also sprinkle his wondrous blessings over our beloved nation.Let us all together, as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, resolve to make this land of ours a better place on the challenging journey to peace and prosperity.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC, MP |Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
- By Trinidad Guardian
- Published 08/7/2013
Dr Nasser Mustapha is a senior lecturer in Sociology and deputy dean, Graduate Studies, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine. He has served as consulting editor for the Encyclopedia of Caribbean Religions (a York University project). He is the author of two widely used textbooks on Sociology for Caribbean Students. He has served as a member of the subject panel and as chief examiner for Cape Sociology and has published several journal articles on drug abuse, education and stratification, and the sociology of health. He is also the president general of the Trinidad Muslim League (TML).
Q: What message would you like to give to T&T and our readers in this the most holy month in the Islamic calendar for Muslims?
A: This is a special month to Muslims worldwide, in which we are expected to fast from dawn to sunset. I wish to urge everyone to be more patient and co-operative and to be careful in our speech, actions and thoughts. Let us try to serve God by doing as much as possible to enhance and improve the condition of those around us, especially the less fortunate.
Most people will not know what life as a religious leader is like, what would you say to them?
I do not consider myself to be a religious leader in the traditional sense. I have been given the responsibility to lead the Trinidad Muslim League. The TML is a unique, non-sectarian and moderate Muslim group that tries to achieve change through education and moral development. It is our policy to keep away from religious controversies. I try to do my best at all times, to help wherever possible and to intervene when necessary. Of course, circumstances do not permit me to achieve all my goals, but I just have to keep on trying.
Tell us about your inspiration to be such a leader?
I never see leadership as wielding power or controlling the lives of others. I see it as a tremendous responsibility for which we are accountable to the Almighty God. This is a serious undertaking indeed. I am inspired by the plight of humanity, the daily suffering of people all around us, and the need to get people to treat each other in a humane and compassionate manner.
Islam is perceived by some (given the many acts of violence especially around the world) as a religion with an increasing number of fanatics and terrorists...what are you doing to counter these perceptions?
It is unfortunate that these acts of violence take place. I firmly believe that God created the world for a noble purpose, and that human beings are the most intelligent of God’s creation. People should fulfill God’s expectations of us, and live in peace, love and harmony despite ethnic, cultural and religious differences. It is unfortunate that violence and fanaticism exist. The Qur’an tells us that “there is no compulsion; truth stands out clear from error.” Terrorism and violence are certainly not the way of the Qur’an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (Upon whom be peace).
Why does mankind continually act inhumanely towards one another, and why is there so much suffering generally? Is this God’s plan to allow this?
The Qur’an tells us that “God does not change the condition of a people until they first change what is within themselves.” People must consciously turn to God, to increased spirituality and higher ethical and moral principles. In so doing, God’s blessings will descend upon all humanity. Chaos, disorder and discontent result from human errors and misgivings. We reap the results of the seeds we have sown.
What are the biggest challenges facing Islam?
The biggest challenges emanate from among the Muslims themselves with the biased and distorted interpretations of the scriptures; problems of integration in multicultural social milieu, the emphasis on peripheral issues, and the neglect of the plight of the less fortunate.
What advice would you give to a young person who is wondering about becoming a religious leader in your religion?
One does not aspire to be a leader. Aspire to be the follower of a great leader, serve God in all aspects of life, and eventually if leadership is thrust upon you, accept the responsibility.
Where were you born, where did you grow up, and what was it like?
I was born in San Juan. In my day, most of the youth were involved in sports, particularly football and cricket. The youth at my time were also involved in flying kites, pitching marbles, fishing, backyard gardening, spinning tops and hiking. I was a regular participant and spectator of all the major sporting competitions at the Aranguez Savannah. I must say there was never a dull moment during my teenage years. Unfortunately today’s youth are preoccupied with the trappings of the electronic age and are less involved in these outdoor activities.
What would you say is your greatest virtue?
Humility. I hate to say this since this is not being humble.
What daily motto do you live by?
I try to learn something new every day. If a day goes by and I do not learn something new, I feel bored and stagnant. I try to read a lot, ponder over the condition of the world and pray for peace.
At what schools/institutions did you receive your education?
I attended the El Socorro North Government School, The El Socorro TIA Islamia School, St Mary’s College, Port-of-Spain, and the University of the West Indies, St Augustine.
Describe your leadership style.
I have always tried to be as democratic as possible. I do not subscribe to autocratic leadership styles which do not bring out the best from one’s membership. We need to move in harmony with our members, recognising their uniqueness. I treat the members equally, consult as much as possible and make quick decisions in the interest of the group as a whole.
Describe yourself in two words, one beginning with N, the other with M (your initials).
Naturally; me. I am not one to blindly imitate or to mimic others without questioning. I try to be a freethinker with a style of my own, within the framework of my religious teachings: in everything I do, whether it is in teaching, leadership style or my relationship with others.
What do you feel is the most significant accomplishment of your career thus far, both as a UWI lecturer and as a religious leader?
My life was filled with many exciting moments, especially to have to teach adults and supervise students’ research. I am indeed proud that many of my former students have achieved great heights locally and internationally. This is indeed a comforting thought, and I hope I have contributed a little to their success. I am also proud about the publication of my books.
Who were the people who have influenced you the most in your career and in life in general, and how did they? Who are your role models, or who inspires you?
I feel inspired over the years by my teachers; of notable mention is the late Carol Keller who inspired me during my secondary school career. He was one of the most outstanding educators in the Caribbean. I am also grateful for the mentorship provided by Prof Ramesh Deosaran during my university career. I was also inspired by my parents who never gave up on me and continued to nurture, support and encourage me. I also received much support from my siblings, being the ninth child out of ten. I need to mention also the supportive role played by my dear wife who always believed in me and was a continuous source of inspiration and support.
What else do you want to accomplish?
I want to see peace, love and harmony in our nation. I believe that Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to be a model nation with so much talent and intellectual potential, but we spend all our energies wrangling over issues such as the distribution of resources and power sharing.
What daily motto do you live by and in three words, your recipe for success?
Keep close to God, and never give up.
What are your plans for the future?
I need to complete some of the work I have started and to document some of my ideas so that I can share my vision for world peace, which for me is an achievable dream.
As the blessed month of Ramadan steadily progresses Muslims in Barbados complete their fasts during the daylight hours and after Iftar flock to the masajid and other special places arranged for the taraweeh prayers.
Barbadian Muslims over the years have benefitted from listening to a portion of the Holy Quran from the very beginning being recited every night by huffaz (pl of hafiz, memorizer of the Holy Quran) during the taraweeh prayers with completion taking place during the last ten nights of Ramadan.
|Madina Masjid (City Mosque) Bridgetown. Taraweeh prayers are relayed live via radio frequency every night from this masjid to homes which have the radio receivers|
This practice is not new among the Muslim community whose majority traces their roots to the villages of Gujurat, India or who themselves have migrated from there. Muslims there look strongly to this tradition of having at least one hafiz in the family as a source of blessings and pride. In fact Sabir Nakhuda in his recently published book, Bengal to Barbados, noted that among the first Gujurati Muslims to arrive in Barbados in 1929 was a hafiz, Suleiman Kasooji. His knowledge of the Quran and the fact that he was a hafiz made him the leader of the prayers and teacher among the early Muslims to Barbados.
History records that as the revelations came to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, his companions would commit the verses to memory. Wikipedia explains Hafiz-ul-Quran as follows:
“The Arabs preserved their histories, genealogies, and poetry by memory alone. When Muhammad proclaimed the verses later collected as the Qur'an, his followers naturally preserved the words by memorizing them. Early accounts say that the literate Muslims also wrote down such verses as they heard them. However, the Arabic writing of the time was an incomplete script, that did not include vowel markings or other diacritics needed to distinguish between words. Hence if there was any question as to the pronunciation of a verse, the memorized verses were a better source than the written ones. The huffaz were also highly appreciated as reciters, whose intoned words were accessible even to the illiterate. Memorization required no expensive raw materials (in an age when there was no paper in the Muslim world, only vellum). Memorization was also considered more secure—a manuscript could easily be destroyed, but if the Qur'an was to be memorized by many huffaz, it would never be lost. Even after Caliph Uthman ibn Affan collected and organized the Qur'an circa 650-656 CE, recitation (from memory) of the Qur'an was still honored and encouraged. Huffaz are highly respected within the Islamic community. They are privileged to use the title "Hafiz" before their names. Most huffaz have studied as children in special Islamic schools or madrasahs, being instructed in tajwid (rules of recitation) and vocalisation as well as committing the Qur'an to memory. To give some idea as to the nature of this undertaking: The Qur'an is divided into 114 Surahs (chapters), containing 6,236 verses (comprising some 80,000 words or 330,000 individual characters). In the classical Arabic lexicon, the word hafiz was not traditionally used to refer to one who had memorized the Qur'an. Instead, the word used was hamil (i.e., one who carries.) Hafiz was used for the scholars of hadith.”
In Ramadan 2013 in Barbados, an island of only 166sq.miles, a record 50 to 60 hafiz are leading taraweeh prayers at various locations on the island. From the established masajid to musallas (prayer rooms) to special places just set up for the purpose of taraweeh to a group of Muslim moving around the island in a ‘jamaat’ for the first 20 days of Ramadan under the guidance of Barbadian, Mufti and hafiz, Saeed Adam, praying their taraweeh prayers sometimes under coconut trees. Muslims in Barbados are having the opportunity of hearing the complete recitation of the Holy Quran. Additionally, huffaz from Barbados are being ‘exported’ to lead taraweeh prayers in other islands across the region that does not have the luxury of huffaz in their own communities. Within the last five years huffaz have travelled to Guyana, Trinidad, St. Lucia and Jamaica to lead taraweeh prayers. Some have even travelled to the United States. And this year for the first time a Barbadian hafiz have travelled thousands of miles to the other side of the world, to Japan. Hafiz Mohamed Patel who represented Barbados in the Holy Quran International Award in Dubai two years ago was invited to Tokyo to lead taraweeh prayers. Sharing his experience thus far, hafiz Mohamed says he is extremely excited to be in such a different place, seeing new things and having new experiences.
With the growing number of huffaz, Barbados has been able to participate in several international Holy Quran competitions, last year saw huffaz being sent to represent Barbados in competitions in Dubai, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Moscow, Russia. In the 17 annual Holy Quran Award in Dubai this year Barbados was represented by hafiz Arshad Patel, the 11 year that the island has sent a hafiz to compete in this prestigious competition whose prizes are extremely generous.
|Hafiz Arshad Patel competing in Quran Recitation competition in Dubai|
Female memorizers are not left out as there are also some in the community and some on their way to completion. A few years ago a hafiza represented Barbados at an all female competition in Tripoli, Libya. And while traditionally memorizing begins at an early age we have had persons in their 50’s as well making the effort and being successful at completion.
Ramadan certainly brings to light the fact that the practice and culture of memorizing the Holy Quran has taken root among the Muslims of Barbados. Noteworthy is that all the appointed Imams of the three main masajid are both scholars of Islam and hafiz-ul-Quran. As many families draw their inspiration from several ahadith on the subject the following 2 sayings of the beloved Messenger of Allah perhaps creates a strong motivation to continue this tradition well into the future with at least one hafiz/hafiza in each Muslim household in Barbados not an unrealistic goal.
“The likeness of the one who reads Qur'an and memorizes it is that he is with the righteous honourable scribes. The likeness of the one who reads it and tries hard to memorize it even though it is difficult for him, he will have two rewards.”
"Whoever reads the Qur'an and learns and acts according to it, will be adorned on the Day of Judgment with a crown of Light whose gleam is like that of the sun, and his parents will be dressed in two garments that the world can never he equal to. Thereupon, they will question, 'For what reason are we dressed in these garments?' lt will be said, 'This is by virtue of your son who memorized the Qur'an. "
Sadly just before Ramadan the Muslim community buried a hafiz, not an old person, but one who was stricken with cancer. At his janazah his teenage son, who recently completed his hifz, led the prayers bringing some comfort that the legacy of memorization of the Holy Quran would continue in Barbados.
Liberal leaders are banking on millions fed up with the economy to help push Mursi out. They have been angered by the U.S. ambassador, who said protests were bad for an economy crippled by unrest that has scared off tourists and investors.
Vegetable vendor Zeeka, who gave only his nickname, said he too feared more violence: more trouble means less work for a man who reckons that since the revolution his daily income has more than halved, to $6. His monthly rent had nearly doubled, to $70.
"What is happening now in Egypt is shameful. Prices are on the rise. There is no work. Thugs are everywhere," he said, showing a scar on his arm from a recent beating.
Political feuding was just not helping: "We are with neither one nor the other," said Zeeka. "We are the vegetable people."
Guyana last week, following an appeal made by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General, Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, to assist Malian IDPs (Internally Displaced People) and refugees, donated 10,000 US dollars to alleviate the plight of the most vulnerable and needy Malian people who have been badly affected by this current crisis according to an OIC press release.
As well, the Republic of Cameroon donated 100,000 US dollars following Dr.
Ihsanoglu call to help refugees in Mali. Guyana a few years ago donated 30,000 US dollars to people affected by floods in Pakistan and that money was used to build 100 housing units, a school, a health center and a mosque to the people of the Dera Gazi Khan village in Multan, Punjab Province which was ravaged by floods two years ago. The Republic of Cameroon also donated to the this project in Pakistan.
According to the press release, the OIC Secretary General expressed his gratitude to the representatives of Cameroon and Guyana and informed them that the funds will be used to assist IDPs who have recently returned to Northern Mali after several months spent away from their houses and separated from their loved ones.
Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu reiterated his pressing appeals to all OIC Member States and the international community to generously donate to Mali which needs their assistance to tackle the daunting challenges of development and food insecurity.
Mali is a predominantly Muslim country in sub-Sahara Africa with a rich history that goes back to the times when Timbuktu was an intellectual city that joined vital trade routes that linked Ghana to Mali to Morocco and which today is facing a Toureg rebel insurgency that threatens to destabilize this drought plagued region.
- By Raymond Chickrie
- Published 05/27/2013
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- The secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, will arrive in Suriname on Sunday for a historic first visit of its only two member states in the Americas -- Suriname and Guyana -- to bring them into the fold of cooperation under the OIC projects, particularly in the field of economic development.
The OIC is a multi-lateral organisation of 57 countries from mainly Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The OIC includes many rich nations such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Brunei Darussalam, Gabon, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) is an organ of the OIC of which Suriname is also a member.
Guyana’s ambassador to the OIC, Dr Odeen Ishmael said, “The forthcoming visit of the secretary general of the OIC to Guyana and Suriname is of great significance since it will place both countries in the spotlight in all the member states of the organisation.”
Ishmael added that the secretary general’s visit will receive wide coverage in OIC countries, and particularly the Arab region, and that both Guyana and Suriname “can make use of this visit by promoting their economic development strategies and needs, while at the same time show that they are open to investment from the rich OIC member states.”
There is growing excitement about this long anticipated visit to Suriname, since President Desi Bouterse officially invited Ihsanoglu a year ago. Suriname’s ambassador to the United Nations, Henry MacDonald, who has been instrumental in putting together this trip, flew to Suriname last week to iron out every aspect of the visit and to receive the OIC delegation at the Johan Pengel International Airport.
Suriname will use the visit to showcase its multi-ethnic and religious diversity, its economic growth and trade and investment opportunities.
MacDonald said, “The visit of the secretary general of the OIC to its ‘only two’ member states in the Americas once again proves that the Surinamese government is serious in intensifying the notion of south-south cooperation in its overall foreign policy. Suriname and Guyana should approach this visit as an exceptional opportunity to make themselves and the business opportunities that both countries have to offer OIC member states in general and the Arab region particularly known.”
MacDonald added, “I am confident that this visit will further cement the Suriname-OIC relationship for generations to come. I am very satisfied the OIC secretary general will also meet with the members of the Inter Religious Council of Suriname, since interreligious cooperation, tolerance and celebrations are principles that we proudly promote nationally and internationally.”
Both Guyana and Suriname have considerable Muslim communities that arrived from West Africa during the period of slavery, from the Indian sub-continent and from the largest Islamic country, Indonesia, who make up about 15% of Suriname’s population.
Head of the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), Al Haji Fazeel Ferouz, in response to Ihsanoglu’s visit to Guyana, said, “This is one of the most important visits of a high ranking official of the Muslim world to Guyana and Suriname and our governments should try their best to capitalize on this for the benefit of the respective countries.”
Ihsanoglu and his delegation, which includes Mrs Fusun Ihsanoglu; OIC ambassador to the UN, Ufuk Gokcen; director of the Cabinet, Amanul Haqq; director of protocol, Bilal Sasso; and press officer Mr Oktay, will hold meetings with Suriname’s vice president Robert Ameerali and foreign minister Winston Lackin, as well as meet with members of Suriname’s Inter Religious Council.
The presidents of Guyana and Suriname will be out of their respective countries during the visit of the OIC secretary general. Both will be in Trinidad to meet with US Vice President Joe Biden for a US/CARICOM summit.
May 27th 2013:Razia Joemman has won top honours from a group of sixteen participants for the recitation of the Holy Quran the correct way. Her prize included a complete audio recording of Quranic recitation and religious books from the chairman of the Majlis Moeslimin Suriname, Haji Feroz Nazir.
The Quran Competition Night is to be held annually to encourage young people to recite the Quran well. The first was recently held. A good intonation, grammar and proper breathing techniques play an important role in the competition, says the organization. Quran Competition Night is open to all persons from age sixteen and up. The initiative for the Quran Competition Night comes from the Islamic Department Ittefaaqul Islam Livorno.
"The Quran occupies a central place in the life of Muslims. The book includes religious precepts, life lessons, conduct and many other things. The correct recitation of the Quran is especially important when it comes to the right intonation, grammar, pronunciation and breathing. You can not just recite the Quran, it requires years of practice and experience. There are university studies abroad that teaches students the craft of proper recitation of Quran, "said Isaac Jamaludin, President of the Surinamese Islamic Organization (SIO). Jamaludin think that this initiative will motivate young people to study the Quran. The competitors practiced a lot. During the competition they got two excerpts from the Quran selected by the jury. The jury was headed by Ustadh Sheik Talha Arisin, who did a good job. "The result was announced late in the evening, but the audience remained to the end," says Jamaludin.
Unedited from the Nation News: Originally posted at
|“You go and knock on the house. You could not show goods outside,” Mohamed Patel says about his early days as an itinerant trader in Barbados|
Mohamed Patel is an elder member of the Muslim community who, like his father, and so many others, uprooted themselves from the familiar in India to head to the unknown in another part of the world.
“You leave India and go somewhere else to do business and get a better life,” he told the Sunday Sun.
He followed his father Suleiman Patel, who had first migrated to Trinidad from Gujarat, India, in 1934 and who later made his home in Barbados in 1934. Suleiman Patel opened the dry goods business Suleiman Patel & Sons on Lucas Street, eventually bringing his sons, whom he had left behind in India, to Barbados to join him in the business.
The 25-year-old Mohamed left India accompanied by his wife, Aisha, the 16-year-old he had married just six months before, and arrived in Barbados, a part of the world about which he had no knowledge, to start a new life.
“I did not know anything about Barbados,” he admitted, adding that coming here, he found a place that was “totally different”.
The family lived at a beachside house in Paynes Bay, St James, paying a monthly rental of $36.
Going to Lucas Street, Mohamed noticed a nearby Swan Street with businesses operated primarily by Indians, Syrians and Jews selling fabric, shoes and “a lot of other things”. He also noticed “very cheap prices . . . a small BICO ice cream cost 12 cents, a [soft] drink cost between five and six cents, a yard of cloth was only 36 cents”.
Despite these seemingly affordable prices, when he ventured out into rural Barbados, he discovered another side of the island – poor people who laboured hard to find the money to afford the basics, communities in which the “coolie man” was a welcome sight.
“Many people would say they can’t afford to buy cash, so they would credit from you and they used to pay 25 cents a week. Dollar [a $1] payment was a good customer.”
Not too long after he arrived, his father had taken him out to the country areas to begin work as an itinerant trader, in keeping with the tradition of other Indians who had also engaged in that kind of business.
“My father had a car, so he used to drop me off in the country in the morning. I used to walk around with my suitcase with the cloth and things, and you got to know people. You go and knock the house and you open the suitcase and show them. You had to sit down in the house and so, you can’t go outside. They call you inside and respect you with the sitting.”
Mohammed took along his small package of sandwiches for lunch, and bought a drink every day from one of the many village shops, in the absence of the modern-day supermarket.
“In those days, there was no supermarket, only small shops around the place. When you go in the country, the children would say ‘the coolie man coming’,” a term which he never found offensive because he accepted its meaning as “the man coming to sell”. He found rural Barbadians warm and welcoming, always ready to assist, like when the car he could eventually afford would break down.
“It was an old car and sometimes it would break down in the country. Any time people passed and see the bonnet open, they would stop. Those days, some roads were very rough, and when the rain fall, the car would stick up, but people would come and push you out.”
Mohamed tells of a Barbados in which “people were nice”. Living at his father’s house, he and his wife met many Barbadians who had befriended the elder Patel, people such as National Hero Errol Barrow, a frequent visitor to the Patel home.
Meanwhile, for his young bride, life in Barbados was “very hard”.
“You can’t speak English, you don’t know nothing. The kerosene stove, you don’t know how to use that.”
Coming from India where she had been accustomed to cooking on wood fires in those days, this was a new and challenging experience.
To Aisha’s advantage, however, was that she was living in the well established home of in-laws, where there was a maid who spoke English, and from whom she was able to pick up a word or two. The rest she learnt as she drove around with her husband, observing as he interacted with his customers.
Eventually, she too, assisted at the dry goods store, cutting the lengths of fabric for sale to customers, and often accompanied her husband on his selling trips.
There were days when Mohamed would be left to man the store, while his father went out to do the trading. When the elder Patel eventually returned to his native India, he left Mohamed here to manage the business, which Mohamed did until he decided he could no longer continue on his own and shut up shop. He, however, continued to do itinerant trading until ill health forced his retirement.
The father of two sons and three daughters, Mohamed noted the changes in lifestyle by members of the Indian community. He observed a younger generation no longer keen on following in the footsteps of their parents, opting instead to pursue higher education and taking advantage of opportunities offered in the professions, white collar jobs and other types of business such as car rentals and computers.
While his older son does the same work he did, Mohamed’s second son opted for accounting. His three daughters are all married and leading their own lives.
“When they have education and degrees, they don’t want to go into the country selling cloth,” he said.
Aisha, whose teenage marriage was arranged by parents, added: “In our community now, the young people, they want their own choice. Parents can’t say, ‘Well, you have to marry this girl’. Some [children] will listen, but more prefer to marry here. Some parents still carry their children to India to find someone to marry.”
Nearly all of Mohamed Patel’s original customers have passed away. But when their children see him, they still approach him, enthusiastically calling out “Mr Patel!”.
“When I say, ‘Well, who are you?’ they would say, ‘Mr So and So’s daughter’. They recognize me quick, in Town or the market, anywhere, they recognize me good. When they give me the mother name, the father name, I remember them and it makes me feel good to know that 40 and 50 years after, they recognize me.”
Zakaat House, a non- governmental organisation in Kuwait has accepted the CIOG’s proposal to fund the “MASJID AL KUWAIT.” The project includes the modernization and expansion of the present mosque, addition of a library, a female prayer hall, an auditorium, four guest rooms, a kitchen and dining facilities, according to the CIOG.
“The present Masjid cannot accommodate the worshippers which have increased, especially in the female section and which does not have the necessary facilities to cater for the needs of the community. The new Masjid will accommodate more than five-hundred (500) worshippers at any time, and will complement the existing buildings housing the Meten-meer-Zorg Islamic Academy,” according to the press statement.
Construction of the “state-of-the – art Masjid” is due to started last Saturday during a turning of the sod event. After it’s complete the CIOG says, “the central mosque serving the communities at West Coast Demerara and East Bank Essequibo.”
Back in 2011, Zakaat House funded the building of a school to accommodate 300 plus students at the same Meten- Meer- Zorg Islamic Academy. And more recently, donated a bus to transport students to school in Guyana.
According to the President of the CIOG, Fazeel Ferouz, Kuwait continues to make a difference in the lives of poor children by allowing them access to education, hence allowing them an opportunity to maximize their potential, with the help of donations from supporters such as Zakaat House, government and people of Kuwait, the International Islamic Charitable Organisation, and the Ministry of Awqaf.
The CIOG has been in existence for 35 years and supports the socio-economic development of Muslims in Guyana through their support of 137 mosques throughout Guyana, their Zakaat programme, education, dawah, healthcare, disaster relief and women empowerment. Also, the CIOG aid needy non-Muslims and is at the forefront of disaster relief regardless or religious beliefs, which has brought great admiration of the Organisation locally and internationally.
Guyana and Kuwait established diplomatic ties in 1995 and are both members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Kuwait is today Guyana’s strongest partner in the Arab world. No other Gulf country is so heavily involved in the socio-economic development of Muslims in Guyana like Kuwait.
Ties between the two countries are very strong. Guyana has an embassy in Kuwait and in 2010 Kuwaiti’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah visited Guyana. Kuwait is currently funding the construction of a four-lane highway in Guyana.
Muslims make up about 13 percent of Guyana’s population and Islam came to Guyana when African Muslims were brought to the former British and Dutch colony during the 18th century from West Africa and later as indentured immigrants from India, Afghanistan and what is now Pakistan.
- By Alim Ali
- Published 03/28/2013
In this piece veteran journalist Jai Parasram comments on the situation: